Indoor microbial diversity and composition are suggested to affect the prevalence and severity of asthma by previous home microbiome studies, but no microbiome-health association study has been conducted in a school environment, especially in tropical countries. In this study, we collected floor dust and environmental characteristics from 21 classrooms, and health data related to asthma symptoms from 309 students, in junior high schools in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The bacterial and fungal composition was characterized by sequencing 16s rRNA gene and internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region, and the absolute microbial concentration was quantified by qPCR. In total, 326 bacterial and 255 fungal genera were characterized. Five bacterial (Sphingobium, Rhodomicrobium, Shimwellia, Solirubrobacter, Pleurocapsa) and two fungal (Torulaspora and Leptosphaeriaceae) taxa were protective for asthma severity. Two bacterial taxa, Izhakiella and Robinsoniella, were positively associated with asthma severity. Several protective bacterial taxa including Rhodomicrobium, Shimwellia and Sphingobium have been reported as protective microbes in previous studies, whereas other taxa were first time reported. Environmental characteristics, such as age of building, size of textile curtain per room volume, occurrence of cockroaches, concentration of house dust mite allergens transferred from homes by the occupants, were involved in shaping the overall microbial community but not asthma-associated taxa; whereas visible dampness and mold, which did not change the overall microbial community for floor dust, was negatively associated with the concentration of protective bacteria Rhodomicrobium (β = -2.86, p = 0.021) of asthma. The result indicates complex interactions between microbes, environmental characteristics and asthma symptoms. Overall, this is the first indoor microbiome study to characterize the asthma-associated microbes and their environmental determinant in the tropical area, promoting the understanding of microbial exposure and respiratory health in this region.
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